Opel announced the news in a press release on March 22: In addition to the six Centers of Competence (CoC) already announced in November, the PSA Group will now be establishing nine further CoCs at the Rüsselsheim development center – including one for seat development. This was good news for Stefan Koob, head of the center, and a logical decision.
“We began discussions in August of 2017 and considered how we could integrate our expertise in the area of seat development into the Group as a whole”, says the graduate in engineering. In line with PSA policy, the idea behind bundling all competencies in this area was to increase efficiency and cut costs.
“The team was overjoyed”
As the Senior Manager explains, it was, above all, the international expertise available in Rüsselsheim that tipped the balance in favor of the location: “As we had been developing seats for GM for many years, we were able to tip the scale to our advantage with our global know-how in the discussions. When we were given the go-ahead for our CoC, the team was naturally overjoyed.”
The engineers in Rüsselsheim had solutions for every challenge, and were able to convince the Group’s top-level management of their competencies in the integration of modules in vehicles of other brands, compliance with safety criteria in the various markets, and fulfillment of the design and comfort standards of the different brands.
Almost four years in South Korea
The entire seats-team can draw on many years of international experience, which also applies to Koob, who has been with Opel for the past twelve years. After graduation, the mechanical engineer from Mainz, who majored in vehicle technology, began his career as an acceptance engineer in the chassis division before moving to South Korea for almost four years in 2011. In Seoul, he worked as Global Vehicle System Engineer on numerous Opel/Vauxhall and GM models and learned how complex vehicle development for different countries can be – for instance, in the US-American and Asian markets. Following his return, Koob was promoted to the position of Engineering Group Manager in the Thermal Division and later took over the management of Seat Development.
Seating competence at Opel
Good seats are just as much a part of Opel as the legendary “Blitz”, the lightning bolt on the radiator grille. Beginning with the Opel Crossland X, Opel offers AGR-certified (Aktion Gesunder Rücken e.V. / Campaign for Healthier Backs) ergonomic seats for all models. A new development from Rüsselsheim celebrates its debut in the sporty flagship model, the Opel Insignia GSi: The AGR-certified Opel Performance Sport Seat. It combines lateral support with long-distance comfort and offers all the comfort features of the Insignia series. In most cases, automobile manufacturers buy-in extra-sporty integral seats from specialized suppliers. In the case of the GSi seat, the Opel engineers developed the entire seat module, up to and including the seat construction. The basic structure of the performance sport seat also stems from Opel – the key steel elements are made at the Opel plant in Kaiserslautern.
But aren’t chassis and seats two totally different métiers? “Technically, the two areas are actually not all that different. After all, when we develop seats, I also have to know how the suspension is going to be tuned,” explains Koob. “If drivers wants a sporty ride, like in the Insignia GSi, they have to have a clearly defined seating position with good lateral support. That’s why we developed a GSi seat especially for the sporty flagship model.”
Constant Exchange With France
For Koob, collaboration with the colleagues in France must be as good as the seats he develops. “I like to compare our situation with an ocean-going ship whose crew has been replaced while it’s under full sail.” Defining responsibilities, handing over projects, transplanting expertise into new working environments – setting up the CoC is an extremely strenuous task for Koob and his colleagues. “We have to be flexible and work as a crew – after all, we must keep our ship on course.”
Koob maintains constant contact to the colleagues in France. “We have daily meetings and there’s a constant flow of information about the momentary status of Peugeot, Citroën, and DS cars. I also drive over to France about twice a month.” To be precise, to the PSA Group Technical Center in Velizy-Villacoublay, on the outskirts of Paris. “I quite enjoy the six-hour drive – and it also gives me the chance to try out our seats on a longer journey.”
Customer Satisfaction Has
The Highest Priority
According to Koob, the biggest challenge currently lies in the specific features of Peugeot, Citroën and DS cars. “It’s clear that we want to preserve the DNA of all the PSA Group brands. After all, customers must be able to find the seats that have always been typical to their car. Customer satisfaction comes first in everything we do.”
Koob sees both a special challenge and an enormous obligation in the development of the CoC. “The decision underlines our value within the PSA Group as a whole. Ultimately, we now concentrate all seating competencies in Rüsselsheim – and that’s fantastic.”